The Wapple Bope Mastodon in a Bean Field
His teeth are jet-black. His tusks, a rich chocolate brown and bears or wolves had made a meal of him. And buried under his soft woody bones were seeds of plants, alive at his death.
On April 25, 2005, Jordan Hall and I left for our Mastodon dig in Indiana. Jordan is the young man who actually found the Allosaur skull featured in Doug Phillip’s film Raising The Allosaur. En route, we dropped in to see one of our mammoth skulls being installed at Dr. Tom Sharp’s new museum in Arkansas. After setting up our Triceratops at the new Answers in Genesis Creation Museum in Kentucky for Ken Ham, we made our way on up to Winnamack Indiana to finish the big mastodon dig there.
Our site was in the middle of a soybean field, where mint for chewing gum is also grown. This area between Winnamack, Knox, and Bass Lake, Indiana was a vast swamp when the mastodons and mammoths lived here. The royalty of Europe came here to hunt fowl before the area was drained and the swamps dried up. The water drained off into rivers, through deep ditches, revealing some of the finest farmland in America. And by the 1910s farmers began turning the jet-black soil into furrows for crops.
The ditch diggers with big dredges on boats, were the first ones to encounter the strange huge black bones of long dead elephants we know now as mastodons, Mammuthus americanum. How did they get buried in the muck of these old marshes? Many theories have been advanced. The ICE AGE story was the most popular. Did vast glaciers slide down over these swamps? Maybe they created them.
The first farmers were the next ones to encounter mastodon bones. The wide blades of their mole board plows began hitting the bones and tusks of these gigantic and amazing creatures. But what were these tropical animals doing here? And then in stark contrast, the same plow points were thrown out of the ground when they hit granite boulders, which were carried from hundreds of miles north. Many of them had flattened places. “What’s the deal here,” many asked? Tropical elephants mixed with ice-borne boulders?
We found two of these boulders in with our mastodon. During the first dig here in 2004, I was puzzled to find small pea-sized bits of white quartzite rock in with the black peat. Then someone hit a basketball-sized boulder near the rib cage. This year we dug that out and another one a few feet away like it. Sure enough, there appeared to be slide marks where the ice ground the rocks against other rocks.
At the lowest level, about 24 inches deep, Jordan began finding seeds. Some were the size of a peanut. Others were like grass seed, probably swamp grass. He and a local fellow, Dave then found a tree limb about an inch and a half thick. We hope to have these examined by experts.
Excitement really began to mount when they exposed a hard glassy black object that I immediately recognized as a mastodon tooth. It was a shed tooth. While he lived, the roots of the tooth were being dissolved by the new tooth coming in under it. And had the big bull lived, this tooth would soon have been shed and fallen out. There is much more.
Article and photos copyright Mt. Blanco, originally published 2005. Re-posted 2015
*Mt. Blanco Archives: Because of the many changes since Mt. Blanco opened in 1998, we are re-posting many of the old updates, articles, etc. that were originally on our website. Some of the information may be out of date, but each of our archived articles are an important part of Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum’s history.
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